“But you can control it, Zeke. We all have to learn to fight it. That’s part of what being a vampire is.”

“But I’m going to slip up one day.” Zeke’s voice was low, defeated. “One day, I won’t be able to resist. And it will be the barn all over again.” And I couldn’t answer, couldn’t deny it, because I knew that was true. That, one day, he would slip up. There was no question in my mind. Kanin’s own words came back to me, that warning he’d given, not so very long ago, when I first became a vampire.

Sometime in your life, Al ison Sekemoto, you will kill a human being. Accidental y or as a conscious, deliberate act. It is unavoidable.

The question is not if it will happen, but when.

That held true for Zeke now, as well. And we both knew it.

“What if I get to Eden,” Zeke went on, “and I can’t control myself? The people there, my family, they won’t suspect anything. What if Caleb or Bethany come running up to me, and I…” He closed his eyes, unable to continue, his face twisted with loathing. “I can’t do it,” Zeke whispered, his voice choked but resolved. “I can’t go to Eden, not like this.

Go on without me.”

“I am not leaving you behind, Zeke.” Anger and panic flared, and I bared my fangs at him. I would not lose him now, either to Sarren’s twisted games or his own guilt. Atrocities aside, I had to make him see that he wasn’t alone.

“Do you think you’re the only one who’s gone through this?” I demanded. “Do you remember all those times I said we couldn’t be together, because you were a human and I was a vampire? When I told you I couldn’t go to Eden, because I was afraid I would kill someone? Remember what you told me, then? You said I’m not a monster, and I’m not evil. Why is it different for you?”

“Because I am a monster!” Zeke snarled back. His fangs flashed as he whirled around, glaring at me. “This is what I am, Allison! I’m a demon—you know it as well as me.”

“Oh, for f**k’s sake!”

Jackal abruptly shoved himself off the truck and came stalking forward, eyes glowing yellow, his lips curled into a grimace of disgust. “Puppy, I am getting so tired of listening to you whine about this,” he snarled at Zeke. “This isn’t rocket science. If you don’t want to be a monster, don’t be a bloody monster! Be an uptight stick in the mud like Kanin. Be a selfrighteous bleeding heart like Allison. Or you can stop agonizing about it and be a f**king monster, it’s actually a lot of fun.” He narrowed his eyes as Zeke and I stared at him, stunned. “But for the love of piss, make some sort of decision. If you don’t want to eat babies and nail bloodbags to walls, that’s your choice. What Sarren did or made you do in the past has nothing to do with it now. You’re a vampire. Do whatever the hell you want.”

Zeke blinked, still in a state of shock, but I bristled and stepped forward, baring my fangs at my brother. “That isn’t fair, Jackal,” I growled. “He never wanted to Turn. Sarren forced this on him—”

“And you,” Jackal interrupted, turning on me, “are part of the problem. Bitching and crying because he’s not acting like a human anymore. Here’s a news flash, sister. He’s not human anymore. He doesn’t need you holding his hand every time a kitten dies. Maybe when he was a mewling, pathetic meatsack, he needed some kind of protection, but he’s one of us now. Or he would be, if you didn’t act like it was the end of the world because he likes the taste of blood. Stop treating him like a mortal and let him be a bloody vampire.”

Taken aback, I fell silent, and for a moment, we all stared at each other. The wind picked up, blowing the scent of death and mutilated corpses into the road, and the rabids lay scattered around us like fallen limbs, bloody and broken. It caught Jackal’s duster, causing it to billow out behind him as he glared at us, his expression twisted with mockery and disgust. Behind him, Zeke’s face had gone blank again, glassy blue eyes staring out at nothing.

Then Kanin stepped into the circle, his voice weary but calm. “Dawn is nearly upon us,” he said, giving no hints to his thoughts, his feelings about the sudden outburst between his two offspring. “I suggest we get out of the open. This conversation will have to wait until tomorrow night.”

That ended it. With a final, disgusted snort, Jackal turned and stalked off down the road, shaking his head. He didn’t look back, and within moments, the raider king had slipped between the sea of scattered cars and disappeared from sight.

“Allison.” Kanin looked at me, his dark eyes impassive.

“Take Ezekiel and find a place to sleep. Try to stay close. I’ll find you both this evening.”

“Right,” I murmured, and Kanin too, disappeared, melting into the darkness surrounding us, leaving me and Zeke alone.

I glanced at Zeke, who hadn’t moved from his spot next to the car, and jerked my head toward a peeling, two-story house on the corner of the street. “Come on,” I said quietly.

“Let’s get out of the open.”

He didn’t say anything, just followed me across the road, over a sagging picket fence, and through a weed-choked yard to the steps of the house. Inside, rubble covered the floor, and the walls were cracked and peeling, showing rotting boards beneath, but it was in better shape than most empty houses I’d seen. A fireplace sat crumbling against the back wall, bricks scattered over the floor, and a gutted armchair lay overturned in front of it, covered in moss.

I spotted a staircase against a wall and motioned Zeke toward it, knowing the bedrooms would probably be on the second floor. The creaking, groaning stairs took us to an equally noisy hallway, with a trio of doors that led to individual rooms. The largest had a rusty brass bed and a mattress big enough for two people, but it also had several windows that faced east and nothing to cover them with. The room across the hall was smaller, but its one window was already boarded up, so in that regard, it was an easy choice. Of course, there were other factors to take into account.

A single bed sat in the corner, dusty but fairly clean, and I hesitated, not knowing if Zeke wanted to share the mattress with me. Or, honestly, if I wanted to be in the same room with him. Jackal’s words still clawed at my mind, the accusation that I was making this worse, that I couldn’t let Human Zeke go. I didn’t want to admit it, but as infuriating and shameful and humbling as it was, my blood brother was right. I’d wanted Zeke to be like he was before, and that just wasn’t possible. Not with what he had gone through.


Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
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